« PreviousContinue »
THE LAND AND THE BOOK.
January 24th, 1857. OUR first walk in the Land of Promise! To me a land of promises more numerous and not less interesting than those given to the Father of the Faithful, when the Lord said, Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee. It is given to me also, and I mean to make it mine from Dan to Beersheba before I leave it.
Doubtless; and so every young enthusiast in trade means to make his fortune. But do you expect to gain such an inheritance as this in a few months? Abraham himself never set foot on one tenth of this territory, and Moses only got a bird's-eye view of it—not a bad one, though, if the day was as intensely clear as ours is. One seems to look quite to the bottom of heaven's profoundest azure, " where the everlasting stars abide;" and how sharply defined is every rock and ravine, and tree and house on lofty Lebanon. That virgin snow on its summit is thirty miles off, and yet you could almost read your own name there, if written with a bold hand on its calm, cold brow. Through such utter transparency did the Lord show unto Moses, from the top of Mount Abarim, all the land of Gilead unto Dan, and all Naphtali, and the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, and all the land of Judah unto the utmost sea, and the south, and the plain of the valley of Jericho, the city of palm-trees, unto Zoar. Nor need there have 1 Gen. xiii. 17.
Deut. xxxiv. 1-3.
been any miracle in the matter. Though a hundred and twenty years old, his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated. And I can guide you to many a Pisgah on Lebanon and Hermon from whence the view is far more ex. tensive. It was through such an atmosphere as this, I suppose, that the old Phoenicians first saw Cyprus, and called it Chittim, a name afterward applied by Hebrew poets and prophets to the islands of the Mediterranean in general.
I have heard it denied, both in and out of Palestine, that Cyprus could be seen from Lebanon, but from many a standpoint up yonder I have often beheld that favorite isle of the Paphian Venus glowing in the golden light of our summer evenings. More distinctly still is Lebanon visible from Cyprus. There is a splendid view of it from the mountain of the Cross, a few miles back of Larnica; and many years ago, when traveling through the island, I climbed, with infinite toil, the northern range of mountains to a giddy pinnacle not far from the ruined but romantic castle of Bûffavento, and from it the higher half of Lebanon looked like a huge snow-bank drifted up against the sky. Beneath my feet rolled the sparkling seas of Cilicia and Pamphylia, over which Paul sailed on his way to Rome, while far beyond, the glaciers of Taurus flashed back the setting sun. Through such an atmosphere, objects are visible to a distance quite incredible to the inexperienced. You will find yourself deceived in this matter a hundred times before you have traveled a week in Syria. And now we are abroad, shall we ramble on ala bab Allâh (toward God's gate), as our Arabs say when they neither know nor care where they are going ? Just my case at present.
Where all is new, and every prospect pleases, it matters little what path we take, and, for the moment, I am thinking of what is not seen rather than what is.
Looking for an omnibus, perhaps, or expecting the cars to overtake us ?
Not just that. I know that such things are not yet
1 Deut. xxxiv. 7.
found in Syria; but I am greatly surprised at the absence of all wheeled vehicles, and look round at every fresh noise, expecting to see a cart, or dray, or wagon of some kind or other, but am always disappointed.
And will be. There is nothing of the sort in Syria; neither is there street or road for them in any part of the land.
How do you account for this? It was not always so. We read of carriages and chariots at a very early age. Joseph sent wagons for the wives and little ones of his father's family. Jacob's funeral was attended by chariots from Egypt to Hebron. The Canaanites had chariots in the time of Joshua.; Judah could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley because they had chariots of iron. Jabin had nine hundred, and the Philistines thirty thousand (?) in the reign of Saul. Isaiah rebuked the children of Israel because there was no end to their chariots;' and thus it continued down to the time when Philip joined himself to the chariot of the eunuch on the road to Gaza. Throughout all this long period there were countless carriages in this country, and, of necessity, roads for them. How is it that now there is neither the one nor the other?
Natural enough, and very appropriate. The first inquiry of a sensible traveler in a strange land will have reference to the means of locomotion. As to your question, however, the natives will tell you that carriage-roads can not be made in Syria. But this is a mistake. They might be constructed, at a moderate expense, in nearly all parts of the country. Their total disappearance can easily be explained. When the wild Arabs of the Mohammedan desolation became masters, wheeled vehicles immediately sunk into neglect, and even contempt. Accustomed only to the horse, the camel, and the ass, they despised all other means of travel and transportation. Good roads were not necessary for them, and, being neglected, they quickly disappeared from the land, and carriages with them. Nor will they ever reappear till some other race than the Arab predominates, and a better than the Turk governs. Even the Christian inhabitants of Lebanon, where good roads are most needed, have no adequate appreciation of them, and take no pains to make them. They drive their loaded camels, mules, and donkeys along frightful paths, and endanger their own necks by riding over the same, from generation to generation, without dreaming of any improvement. You must educate your nerves into indifference in this matter, and get ready as fast as possible to flounder over all sorts of break-neck places in the course of our pilgrimage. “What man has done, man can do." I have all
1 Gen. xlv. 19, 21.
2 Gen. 1. 9.
3 Josh. xvii. 16.
been accustomed to the saddle, and like it; and a little danger now and then will impart additional charms to the tour. -What tree is this which overshadows our path? It is more bushy and thick-set than the apple-tree, for which I at first mistook it, and, as we near it, I see that the leaves are longer and of a much darker green.
That is the kharûb—the tree that bore the husks which the swine did eat, and with which the poor prodigal would